Table top war gaming is a wonderful hobby because there are so many sides to it, and so many ways to approach it. People who would normally flip burgers, or sit in a desk, get to enjoy a world where they are in control and they are free to do whatever they want with it. There are several ways you can group the ways people approach the game, and one of them is the idea of Batman vs Hulk.
The Batman approach is one that focuses on having answers. Much like Batman’s utility belt has something for every situation, this style relies on analysis done before the game to develop a list of threats and then in turn come up with an answer for each one. An example might be someone who makes sure that in their list (or pairing of lists) they have an answer for high defense, for high armor, for incorporeal, for dealing with infantry, for dealing with guns, for dealing with terrain, etc. This style is a very natural one to go to (sure seems logical to have answers to problems) and many people have been very successful with it.
The other approach is the Hulk version. This style depends on maxing out something to the point that your opponent can not deal with it. So just like Hulk looks to overpower his opponent with ever increasing strength, in gaming you would looks to max out in areas like high defense, high armor, or having so many infantry that the opponent can’t deal with them all. This is often called ‘spamming’, and is put down as lazy or boring, but it honestly is something that makes perfect sense and is tactically sound. The idea is if you have one tank your opponent will focus heavy fire to destroy it, if you have two tanks then they will need to split fire to try and take them out, and at some point there are more tanks than the heavy guns can deal with before they are overrun. Another example would be guns, where if you have a few guns you can only kill so many things before the mass overruns you, but if you have enough guns to kill every model that is in range to engage you then you can repeat that process and win without ever being engaged. Much like Batman approach, many people have been very successful with it.
But which is better?
Better is a very subjective term. At their extremes, where a Batman player had a list with an answer for every skew, and was against a Hulk player with one skew maxed out as far as it could go, given equal skill the Hulk player should win in theory. A Batman list with ‘all the answers’ can only have so much of each answer, which can only handle so much, and if the Hulk player focuses on removing the elements that provide that answer then the Batman player has nothing left to effectively counter the skew. Naturally a lot more can go into this simulation, but the very definition of the Hulk player shows it’s designed to defeat Batman players.
Another issue with the Batman approach is the agony of analysis. Given a game with a wide scope of options, there starts to be more things you need to answer than you can realistically fit into one list. So even if you spent all the time you needed to plan out every possible threat, it doesn’t mean you can actually have an answer to all of them. Finally there is the frustrating knowledge that out of everything you plan for you will only face a fraction of the options, meaning at least some of your planning will ‘be for nothing’.
So does that mean Hulk is better?
No, the Hulk style has its own issues. Spamming one facet of the game makes you incredibly strong in that area, but it also makes you extremely weak in all others, and you put yourself at risk of having those weaknesses exploited on a situation by situation basis. Also in a world of skew lists, inevitably some of those skews will trump your skews, so in a four game tournament setting you must go in with the knowledge that if such an opponent comes up your hopes for winning the tournament are dashed. To counter this you can reduce your skew to put band-aids on those other areas of your game plan, but the more you do the more you start giving the Batman style the advantage when facing you.
Something should also be said for enjoyment of play. Now if the term ‘better’ was hard to define, ‘enjoyment’ is almost impossible as it will vary greatly from person to person. Some get enjoyment from the planning stage of the Batman process, using those tools to create a winning strategy during the game, and then seeing all their hard work come together in victory. At the same time developing a skew that best takes advantage of the meta, playing carefully to protect your weaknesses while using your strengths to their full potential, and then defeating your opponent can be equally enjoyable. A lazy gamer could just spam something and push it forward, but at the same time a lazy gamer could just make a list of the random pieces they have and push it forward. Both options can bring enjoyment, and both options can bring victory.
ENOUGH TALK! WHICH IS BETTER?!?!
At the end of the day both approaches work, but more important is the understanding that these aren’t two clean cut camps, but rather a spectrum where the optimum style is somewhere in between the two extremes. It’s likely best for a list to be heavily leaning towards one aspect of the game, but have the other aspects of the game covered in at least some way, and have at least some answer to the most common issues seen in the meta. People will likely be biased towards one side or the other, but the idea of a Hulked out Batman is truly terrifying.